Fashion & Shopping

Floral Fashion, Literally

March 24, 2017

To adjust an old maxim slightly, March showers bring April flowers. At least, they do when it comes to Fleurs De Villes: an incredible event that combines high fashion and fresh florals through inventive and artful displays at top shopping centres across Canada. Ahead of this year’s "living dress" mannequin series (April 19 to 23 at Southgate; look for everything from a fresh-flower gown to a blooming bikini) and flower market (April 22, same venue), we chatted with Fleurs De Villes’ founders, Vancouverites Tina Barkley and Karen Marshall, about all things floral (from how to wear to why to grow—er, we mean go). —Noa Nichol

fleurs de villes

Flowers and fashion, fashion and flowers—what’s the connection?

Karen: Historically, fashion has always been inspired by flowers, whether through colour (a certain pigment) or design (a scalloped edge) or decoration (fine floral needlework). Just look at some of the most beautiful paintings of Marie Antoinette, arguably one of the most prolific fashion leaders the world has ever known, and the inspiration she took from flowers in her dress and in her painting poses—there is a strong and very deliberate connection to all things floral. Today the same holds true; go into any store this spring and see the number of garments with floral prints, the resurgence of floral wallpapers and cushions, etc. Fleurs de Villes takes this all one big step further, showcasing living dresses of 100 per cent fresh flowers—not just prints, or fake silk flowers. When that all comes together, you have a stop-in-your-tracks experience like no other.

What was the impetus to create this event? What’s your personal connection to flowers—and with fashion?

Karen: Our mutual love of flowers and high regard for those who work with them started things off. Flowers make everyone happy. The opportunity to present them in an original way, in high-traffic areas, propelled us to create Fleurs de Villes. Working with enlightened shopping centres that felt the same way allowed us to showcase these great works in an environment where fashion rules. Each florist creates a completely unique experience with their mannequin—it’s remarkably creative, original and different. Individuality is key—very much how I feel about fashion overall.

fleurs de villes

Do you have a favourite flower?

Karen: It’s a hard toss up between a gardenia—I am transfixed by the scent—and a peony, which is the single most beautiful thing in the organic world I feel. Pure perfection.

Tina: That’s like asking a kid what her favourite candy is! It’s impossible to pick just one. I’m a dahlia fanatic and have been growing them for several years now. When those dinner plate dahlias come in from the garden I am just in awe. I’ve always loved coral peonies. They leave me speechless. And, as a child, I always planted sweet peas with my grandparents—a tradition that I do to this day. Even if they just last a day or two, their aroma … !

What can we expect to see on the mannequins this year?

Tina: Sheer greatness will undoubtedly be on display. What you see in a photo is infinitely more powerful in person—you feel the freshness of the flowers. There will be gowns and frocks. Dresses with intricate bodices and layers, straight-up bikinis and who knows what else these designers will dream up?!

Any tips for incorporating not just florals but actual flowers into our daily wardrobes?

Tina: Be bold, wear that flower in your hair! Fashion today is about being an individual so, if flowers make you happy, wear one. Or two. Or three.

fleurs de villes


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